Darrell Ceciliani went undrafted out of high school, although the Brooklyn Cyclones center fielder had extenuating circumstances.
Ceciliani did not devote his full attention to baseball then. He served as point guard on his high school basketball team and receiver and free safety on the football team.
He also had responsibilities on his family’s 18,000-acre ranch in Madras, Oregon. Bitter Brush Ranch takes clients on fishing tours for trout, steelhead and salmon and hunting tours for deer, elk, antelope and waterfowl.
“Growing up, I never played a lot of travel ball. I never went out and played Area Code Games or anything like a lot of guys,” Ceciliani said. “In the summer I played baseball just to get away and hang out with my friends. And I loved the game, so I always wanted to play professional baseball. But I was helping my dad out -- me and my brothers -- on the ranch, trying to get all that stuff done to put food on the table.
“We run a cow-calf operation. We’ll breed the cows, raise the calves up and eventually we take them into the sale and butcher them off or whatever we do. We end up selling them.
“We also run a hunting and fishing business out there. So we get clients coming in there year-round for certain seasons. Me and my brothers guide them. In the fall, that’s the busiest time. When I get back, after the season, I help my dad out a lot with that.”
The elder Ceciliani, also named Darrell, was a promising college football prospect out of high school, but was unable to pursue that ambition because his father passed away and he needed to take over the family dairy farm at the time in California.
The Cecilianis coincidentally learned last offseason that Cyclones manager Wally Backman is virtually a neighbor in Oregon.
“He’s the next town over -- about 25 miles or so,” Ceciliani said. “He’s real close. I knew the name. Me and my dad were actually sitting around in the offseason when they said they hired Wally Backman for the Cyclones. We looked it up, because we knew he was kind of from around there. It’s been great getting to know the guy now.”
Because of subpar grades, Ceciliani enrolled at Columbia Basin Community College rather than a Division I school after going undrafted out of high school. A year later, he was the Mets’ fourth-round draft pick in 2009.
He hit .234 with low-A Kingsport after the draft last year. This season, the center fielder leads the New York-Penn League with a .351 average and ranks fourth in steals with 20.
With 15 games remaining, the 20-year-old Ceciliani already owns Cyclones single-season records for hits (86), runs (50) and triples (10).
If he maintains his average, he will comfortably exceed Jay Caligiuri’s .328 in 2001 for the Brooklyn record.
He also is within striking distance of three other records: at-bats with 245 (Kirk Nieuwenhuis, 285, 2008), steals with 20 (Angel Pagan, 30, 2001) and games played with 61 (Ian Bladergroen, 74, 2003 and Caleb Stewart, 74, 2005).
Ceciliani recently moved from No. 2 to leadoff with Rylan Sandoval on the DL with a fractured right wrist. He partly credits the upswing in production in his second professional season to having a year of experience under his belt and knowing “what to expect coming into this season.”
Under the tutelage of Backman and hitting coach Benny DiStefano, who played in 240 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros, Ceciliani has increased his bunting this season and used that to produce infield singles.
“I’ve got 10 or 12 of those this year,” Ceciliani said. “I’m just trying to take advantage of everything the defense gives me and use my speed to my advantage.”
The lefty-hitting, lefty-throwing Ceciliani was within nine points of a .400 average as late as Aug. 1. He was bidding to become the first player to reach that plateau in the New York-Penn League since Jack Maloof hit .402 for Auburn in 1971. Maloof’s career topped out in Triple-A.
“I’ve heard a lot about it,” Ceciliani said. “It’s probably not going to happen, to be honest. Not too many guys have ever done that. I’m still young and still learning the game. I was never worried about the average. In the back of my head, hitting .400 for a whole season would have been pretty unbelievable. It would have been great to do it. I’m still trying to go out and have a successful season. I don’t have to hit .400 to do it.”
Ceciliani sat out Monday’s game for Brooklyn when asthma flared up. He was slated to be back in the lineup Tuesday, but the Cyclones’ game against Hudson Valley was rained out. Ceciliani said the asthma issue, which tormented him last year, is mostly in the past now.
“Last year was bad. I couldn’t stay healthy,” Ceciliani said. “I’ve really worked hard on trying to stay healthy so I can be on the field as much as possible. This is my first episode I’ve had of it [this year]. It’s really when I get a cold, my lungs just kind of close up and my asthma kicks in. It wasn’t too bad. From all the stuff I did in the offseason working with doctors, it’s 100 times better than it was. I’m trying a bunch of different stuff. Right now it’s all kind of an experiment. We’re seeing if it works. I got on a couple of different medications that took the inflammation down. I’m working with a doctor now. He makes the body heal itself.”
Average: Darrell Ceciliani, Brooklyn, .351; Josh Satin, Binghamton, .324; Joe Bonfe, Brooklyn, .323; Javier Rodriguez, Kingsport, .319; Eric Campbell, Binghamton, .311; J.B. Brown, Brooklyn, .311; Lucas Duda, Buffalo, .309; Sean Ratliff, Binghamton, .307; Justin Schafer, Brooklyn, .302; Cory Vaughn, Brooklyn, .300.
Homers: Lucas Duda, Buffalo, 23; Nick Evans, Buffalo, 22; Sean Ratliff, Binghamton, 21; Mike Hessman, Buffalo, 18; Brahiam Maldonado, Binghamton, 18.
RBIs: Lucas Duda, Buffalo, 87; Sean Ratliff, Binghamton, 79; Wilmer Flores, St. Lucie, 77; Nick Evans, Buffalo, 76.
Steals: Cesar Puello, Savannah, 45; Pedro Zapata, St. Lucie, 34; Juan Lagares, St. Lucie, 25; Darrell Ceciliani, Brooklyn, 20; Emmanuel Garcia, St. Lucie, 18.
ERA: Angel Cuan, Brooklyn, 1.80; A.J. Pinera, Brooklyn, 2.17; Yohan Almonte, Brooklyn, 2.23; Jimmy Fuller, St. Lucie, 2.30; Marcos Camarena, GCL Mets, 2.68; Mark Cohoon, Binghamton, 2.73; Wesley Wrenn, Brooklyn, 2.87; Brandon Moore, St. Lucie, 3.16; Pat Misch, Buffalo, 3.23; Edioglis Villasmil, GCL Mets, 3.28.
Wins: Dillon Gee, Buffalo, 13; Pat Misch, Buffalo, 11; Mark Cohoon, Binghamton, 11.
Saves: Michael Powers, St. Lucie, 15; Manuel Alvarez, Binghamton, 14; Ryan Fraser, Brooklyn, 10; Jose Bierd, St. Lucie, 8; Roy Merritt, Binghamton, 8.
Strikeouts: Dillon Gee, Buffalo, 150; Brandon Moore, St. Lucie, 149; Armando Rodriguez, Savannah, 137; Mike Antonini, Buffalo, 123; Mark Cohoon, Binghamton, 122.
Right-hander Jenrry Mejia produced his second straight scoreless effort Tuesday, running his scoreless streak to 17 2/3 innings with Double-A Binghamton. During his consecutive dominant starts, he has limited Eastern League opponents to four hits and five walks while striking out 12 in 14 innings. … Outfielder Fernando Martinez and infielder Justin Turner, both injured Sunday with Triple-A Buffalo, were due in New York for MRIs of knee injuries. … Left-hander Lachlan Hodge was suspended 50 games for testing positive for an amphetamine, which is considered a performance-enhancing drug, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday. Hodge, who hails from Sydney, Australia, had been 0-3 with an 11.05 ERA in six appearances (four starts) with Kingsport. … Right-hander Josh Stinson allowed five runs (three earned) in six innings and was tagged with the loss in his Triple-A debut Sunday while the Bisons were swept in a doubleheader. A 37th-round pick in 2007, Stinson was 9-3 with a 4.24 ERA and one save in 32 games (14 starts) for Binghamton this season. … Infielder Russ Adams had a two-homer game Monday against Pawtucket. Adams also went deep twice on June 28 at Charlotte. In a 12-game span through Monday, Adams had 12 extra-base hits. He then went 2-for-2 with a walk and hit by pitch Tuesday. Adams, who played in 286 games with the Toronto Blue Jays from 2004-09, leads Buffalo in doubles and extra-base hits for the season. He turns 30 on Aug. 30. … Bisons third baseman Mike Cervenak is hitting .328 (21-for-64) this month. … Catcher J.R. House lost a 10-game hitting streak Tuesday. He nonetheless became the seventh Bison to have a hitting streak of 10 or more games this season. He also had a streak of driving in a run in five straight games snapped. … Bisons left-hander Mike O’Connor has tossed 13 straight scoreless innings. … Right-hander Dillon Gee is ranked second in the International League in wins with 13, one behind Durham’s Richard De Los Santos. … Binghamton center fielder Sean Ratliff, who had been out since tweaking a hamstring last Wednesday, returned with a vengeance in Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep. Ratliff, a fourth-round pick in 2008 out of Stanford, went 3-for-5 with a homer, four runs scored and five RBIs. In 58 games with Binghamton, Ratliff is hitting .338 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs. … B-Mets left-hander Mark Cohoon has hit his stride after a bumpy transition jumping two levels, from the South Atlantic League to the Eastern League. Cohoon (4-3, 4.97 in 11 Double-A starts) has won three straight outings and has allowed two runs or fewer in his past four starts. … With Stinson in Triple-A, right-hander Dylan Owen is set to enter Binghamton’s rotation. The B-Mets need another starter, too, with Chris Schwinden landing on the disabled list with a potentially season-ending left oblique strain. Outfielder Raul Reyes was promoted from St. Lucie to take Schwinden’s roster spot. … Brahiam Maldonado and Josh Satin had 11- and 10-game hitting streaks snapped, respectively, with Binghamton. … Right-hander Erik Turgeon, a 25th-round pick in 2008 out of the University of Connecticut, made his Double-A debut with two scoreless innings Sunday against Altoona. Turgeon went 2-2 with a 3.56 ERA and converted all four saves chances in 22 relief appearances with St. Lucie. … Shortstop Wilfredo Tovar moved from Savannah to Brooklyn. … Savannah starter Armando Rodriguez limited Asheville to one run in six innings Monday and established a career high with 12 strikeouts. The strikeout total matched Brandon Moore for the most by a Gnats pitcher this season. Moore, who has moved to St. Lucie, reached 12 strikeouts three times in the South Atlantic League. Rodriguez leads the league in strikeouts (137), is third in innings pitched (136) and eighth in ERA (3.31). His .223 opponent batting average ranks fifth. … Gnats outfielder Matt den Dekker was 10-for-17 with four RBIs and seven runs scored in a four-game series at Asheville. … Savannah shortstop Robbie Shields, the Mets’ third-round pick in 2009, whose first pro season was interrupted by Tommy John surgery, hit .378 (7-for-19) with four doubles at seven RBIs at Asheville. … Savannah left-hander Darin Gorski, who was 2-2 with three saves and a 2.94 ERA in 12 games (five starts) before the All-Star break, allowed six-plus runs for the third straight start Tuesday. That lifted his season ERA to 4.76. … Brooklyn’s magic number is six to clinch the McNamara Division in the New York-Penn League. Fifteen games remain.
Adam Rubin’s farm report appears Wednesdays during the season